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January 30, 2013

Program to overcome early U.S. math deficiencies could improve workforce

One in five adults in the United States lacks the math competency expected of an eighth grader, according to the United States Center for Educational Statistics.

University of Missouri researchers identified how a lack of a specific math skill in first grade correlated to lower scores on a seventh grade math test used to determine employability and wages in adults.

Intervention programs designed to overcome this early math deficiency could prepare students for later employment, help them make wiser economic choices and improve the future U.S. workforce.

“Our study made a connection between child psychology and labor economics in order to examine the roots of America’s shortage of mathematically proficient workers"...

Kirtland Peterson

Program to overcome early US math deficiencies could improve workforce

One in five adults in the United States lacks the math competency expected of an eighth grader, according to the United States Center for Educational Statistics. University of Missouri researchers identified how a lack of a specific math skill in first grade correlated to lower scores on a seventh grade math test used to determine employability and wages in adults. Intervention programs designed to overcome this early math deficiency could prepare students for later employment, help them make wiser economic choices and improve the future U.S. workforce.

"Our study made a connection between child psychology and labor economics in order to examine the roots of America's shortage of mathematically proficient workers," said lead author David Geary, professor of psychological sciences at University of Missouri. "We isolated a specific skill that has real world importance in employability and observed how that skill related to grade-school mathematical performance. By identifying a specific numerical skill as a target, we can focus education efforts on helping deficient students as early as kindergarten and thereby give them a better chance at career success in adulthood."

The particular math skill Geary identified, "number system knowledge," is the ability to conceptualize a numeral as a symbol for a quantity and understand systematic relationships between numbers. In Geary's research, having this knowledge at the beginning of first grade predicted better functional mathematical ability in adolescence. On the other hand, skill at solving math problems by counting didn't correlate to later ability. Students who started behind in counting ability were able to catch up, whereas students who were behind in number system knowledge stayed behind their peers.

Previously Unknown Mechanism of Memory Formation

It takes a lot to make a memory.

New proteins have to be synthesized, neuron structures altered.

While some of these memory-building mechanisms are known, many are not.

Some recent studies have indicated that a unique group of molecules called microRNAs, known to control production of proteins in cells, may play a far more important role in memory formation than previously thought.

Now, a new study by scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute has for the first time confirmed a critical role for microRNAs in the development of memory in the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in emotional memory. The new study found that a specific microRNA—miR-182—was deeply involved in memory formation within this brain structure.

Academic Gains, Improved Teacher Relationships Found Among High Risk Kids in Head Start

A new study by Oregon State University researchers finds that Head Start can make a positive impact in the lives of some of its highest risk children, both academically and behaviorally.

"These children tend to have unstable home lives, sometimes transitioning between different relatives, living with their grandma one month, and later with an aunt or other family member," said lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at OSU-Cascades.

"These are kids who face heightened risk factors even beyond those of other children living in poverty. They are more similar to what we find in kids in child welfare. They have a lot of challenges in their lives, and the stresses of that can cause behavioral and development issues."

Academic Gains, Improved Teacher Relationships Found Among High Risk Kids in Head Start

A new study by Oregon State University researchers finds that Head Start can make a positive impact in the lives of some of its highest risk children, both academically and behaviorally.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, the study sheds light on how Head Start has helped children living in non-parental care, or living with someone who is not a parent or step-parent by biology or adoption.

“These children tend to have unstable home lives, sometimes transitioning between different relatives, living with their grandma one month, and later with an aunt or other family member”...

Kirtland Peterson

January 29, 2013

Academic gains found among high risk kids in Head Start

A new study by Oregon State University researchers finds that Head Start can make a positive impact in the lives of some of its highest risk children, both academically and behaviorally.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, the study sheds light on how Head Start has helped children living in non-parental care, or living with someone who is not a parent or step-parent by biology or adoption.

“These children tend to have unstable home lives, sometimes transitioning between different relatives, living with their grandma one month, and later with an aunt or other family member,” said lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at OSU-Cascades.

Kirtland Peterson

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a student's mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.

"You can't do that. She didn't do anything wrong," the mother informed me, enraged.

"But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites," I stammered.
"No, I mean she didn't do it. I did. I wrote her paper."

January 28, 2013

How trained literacy coaches can improve student reading comprehension

Pitt study demonstrates that content-focused literacy coaching is markedly more effective—especially for low-income English language learners.

The language and reading comprehension skills of low-income upper elementary-school students—especially English-language learners—can improve markedly if trained literacy coaches engage teachers in conducting interactive text discussions with students, according to a three-year University of Pittsburgh study.

The Pitt researchers report in the journal Learning and Instruction that language and reading comprehension showed measurable improvement for young students when their teachers had worked “at-elbow” with content-specific literacy coaches to foster a more interactive learning environment during class reading assignments.

In the study—one of the first of its kind—the coaches were trained using a professional development system designed at Pitt’s Institute for Learning called the Content-Focused Coaching Model® that has coaches provide teachers with the tools they need to implement rigorous, standards-based lessons. Teachers can then use the knowledge they’ve gained to train other teachers in their schools.

Kirtland Peterson

First ever UK based language tool to decode baby talk

A tool which could radically improve the diagnosis of language delays in infants in the UK is being developed by psychologists.

The tool will plug an important gap which has left UK researchers, education and health professionals at a disadvantage.

Until now, UK language experts have been forced to rely upon more complicated methods of testing child language development, or on methods designed for American English speakers which can lead to UK babies being misdiagnosed as being delayed in language development.

January 25, 2013

Diet, parental behavior and preschool can boost children's IQ

Supplementing children’s diets with fish oil, enrolling them in quality preschool, and engaging them in interactive reading all turn out to be effective ways to raise a young child’s intelligence, according to a new report...

“The larger goal here is to understand the nature of intelligence, and if and how it can be nurtured at every stage of development,” said Aronson, Protzko’s advisor.

“This is just a first step in a long process of understanding. It is by no means the last word. In fact, one of the main conclusions is how little high quality research exists in the field and how much more needs to be done.”

Overall, the results of the meta-analyses indicated that certain dietary and environmental interventions can be effective in raising children’s IQ.

Kirtland Peterson

January 24, 2013

'Cool' kids in middle school bully more, psychologists report

Bullying, whether it's physical aggression or spreading rumors, boosts the social status and popularity of middle school students, according to a new UCLA psychology study that has implications for programs aimed at combatting school bullying.

In addition, students already considered popular engage in these forms of bullying, the researchers found.

The psychologists studied 1,895 ethnically diverse students from 99 classes at 11 Los Angeles middle schools.

They conducted surveys at three points: during the spring of seventh grade, the fall of eighth grade and the spring of eighth grade.

Each time, students were asked to name the students who were considered the "coolest," the students who "start fights or push other kids around" and the ones who "spread nasty rumors about other kids."

Kirtland Peterson

School system favours pupils driven by worry and conscientiousness

It is well known that children perform differently at school, but how can two children with the same IQ, similar home backgrounds and the same teacher get completely different grades? In a new thesis from Lund University in Sweden, psychologist Pia Rosander has successfully predicted secondary school pupils’ final grades based on their personality traits.

In one of three studies, she was able to observe a strong link between personality and grades.

In personality psychology one talks of “the big five” – the five most common personality traits:
  • openness
  • conscientiousness
  • extraversion
  • agreeableness
  • neuroticism
These qualities influence how a person behaves and are relatively stable qualities, which means that they do not change greatly over time or in different situations.

One of the traits is clearly associated with high grades: conscientiousness. Neuroticism, where pupils are driven by fear and worry, also led to high grades. Contrary to Pia Rosander’s hypothesis, openness, or intellectual curiosity, did not lead to high grades.

“We have a school system in Sweden that favours conscientious and fear-driven pupils”, says Pia Rosander. “It is not good for psychological well-being in the long term if fear is a driving force. It also prevents in-depth learning, which happens best among the open personality types who are driven by curiosity.”

Vocabulary instruction failing U.S. students

Vocabulary instruction in the early years is not challenging enough to prepare students for long-term reading comprehension, argues a study led by a Michigan State University education researcher.

The study found that, generally, the programs do not teach enough vocabulary words; the words aren’t challenging enough; and not enough focus is given to make sure students understand the meaning of the words.

“Vocabulary instruction does not seem to have an important enough role in the curricula given how substantial it is for kids’ long-term academic success,” said Tanya Wright, MSU assistant professor of teacher education and lead researcher on the study.

January 23, 2013

Put Me In, Coach! How Trained Literacy Coaches and Teachers Can Improve Student Reading Comprehension

The language and reading comprehension skills of low-income upper elementary-school students—especially English-language learners—can improve markedly if trained literacy coaches engage teachers in conducting interactive text discussions with students, according to a three-year University of Pittsburgh study.

The Pitt researchers report measurable improvement for young students when their teachers had worked “at-elbow” with content-specific literacy coaches to foster a more interactive learning environment during class reading assignments.

In the study—one of the first of its kind—the coaches were trained using a professional development system designed at Pitt’s Institute for Learning called the Content-Focused Coaching Model® that has coaches provide teachers with the tools they need to implement rigorous, standards-based lessons. Teachers can then use the knowledge they’ve gained to train other teachers in their schools.

“Our goal was to create a method for closing the literacy gap between more privileged and low-income students,”

January 22, 2013

Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at 1 year

Using a brain-imaging technique that examines the entire infant brain, researchers have found that the anatomy of certain brain areas – the hippocampus and cerebellum – can predict children’s language abilities at 1 year of age.

The University of Washington study is the first to associate these brain structures with future language skills.

“The brain of the baby holds an infinite number of secrets just waiting to be uncovered, and these discoveries will show us why infants learn languages like sponges, far surpassing our skills as adults."

Children’s language skills soar after they reach their first birthdays, but little is known about how infants’ early brain development seeds that path. Identifying which brain areas are related to early language learning could provide a first glimpse of development going awry, allowing for treatments to begin earlier.

January 17, 2013

New Study Challenges Links Between Daycare and Behavioral Issues

A new study that looked at more than 75,000 children in day care in Norway found little evidence that the amount of time a child spends in child care leads to an increase in behavioral problems, according to researchers from the United States and Norway.

Several prior studies in the U.S. made connections between the time a child spends in day care and behavioral problems, but the results from Norway contradict those earlier findings, the researchers report in the online version of the journal Child Development.

"In Norway, we do not find that children who spend a significant amount of time in child care have more behavior problems than other children," Boston College Associate Professor of Education Eric Dearing, a co-author of the report, said. "This runs counter to several US studies that have shown a correlation between time in child care and behavior problems."

In Minutes a Day, Low-Income Families Can Improve Their Kids' Health

When low-income families devote three to four extra minutes to regular family mealtimes, their children's ability to achieve and maintain a normal weight improves measurably.

"Children whose families engaged with each other over a 20-minute meal four times a week weighed significantly less than kids who left the table after 15 to 17 minutes. Over time, those extra minutes per meal add up and become really powerful."

Childhood obesity in low-income families is a complex problem with many contributing factors, which may include being part of a single-parent family, having a mother who has little education, and living in a poor neighborhood without easy access to healthy foods.

Measuring the Success of Online Education

One of the dirty secrets about MOOCs — massive open online courses — is that they are not very effective, at least if you measure effectiveness in terms of completion rates.

If as few as 20 percent of students finishing an online course is considered a wild success and 10 percent and lower is standard, then it would appear that MOOCs are still more of a hobby than a viable alternative to traditional classroom education.

January 16, 2013

Genetics plays major role in victimization in elementary school

Between 5 and 10% of children experience chronic rejection or victimization in elementary school.

These relationship difficulties can lead to academic problems, health issues, and a series of mental health complications like depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

“That’s why it’s so important to know when and how these problems appear and develop,” concludes Dr. Boivin.

“The good news is that it is possible, in kindergarten if not earlier, to identify children who might have trouble relating to their peers and quickly intervene,” stresses Boivin.

“We have to keep the personal characteristics that make them less popular with other kids from creating a vicious circle of rejection and victimization.”

Kirtland Peterson

Language Mixing in Children Growing Up Bilingual

Language mixing -- using elements from two languages in the same sentence -- is frequent among bilingual parents and could pose a challenge for vocabulary acquisition by one- and two-year-old children, according to a new study by Concordia University psychology professor Krista Byers-Heinlein.

Those results are likely temporary, however, and are often counterbalanced by cognitive advantages afforded to children raised in a bilingual environment.

With immigration and international mobility on the rise, early exposure to two languages has become the norm for many children across Canada, particularly those raised by parents who themselves are bilingual.

Kirtland Peterson

Genetics plays major role in victimization in elementary school

Genetics plays a major role in peer rejection and victimization in early elementary school, according to a study recently published on the website of the journal Child Development by a team directed by Dr. Michel Boivin, a research professor at Universit√© Laval’s School of Psychology.

To come to this conclusion, Boivin and his team tested over 800 twins at three time points: when they were in kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 4. This sample consisted of 41% monozygotic twins—“true” twins who share 100% of their genes—and 59% “false,” or fraternal twins who share an average of 50% of their genes. Each subject, their classmates, and their teacher were asked questions relating to peer rejection and victimization. 
 

January 15, 2013

Childhood trauma leaves its mark on the brain

EPFL scientists have found that childhood trauma leaves a lasting imprint on the brain – a structural change that is related to a predisposition to violence.

It is well known that violent individuals are often themselves the victims of psychological trauma experienced in childhood. Some of these individuals also exhibit alterations in their orbitofrontal cortex.

But is there a connection between these physical changes in the brain and a psychologically traumatic childhood?

Can one’s experiences modify the physical structure of the brain?

January 14, 2013

Quality of Instruction Trumps Language in Reading Programs

PRESS RELEASE:

New research synthesizes studies of English reading outcomes for Spanish-dominant English language learners (ELLs) in elementary schools. The review, Effective Reading Programs for Spanish-dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades: A Synthesis of Research, appears in the December issue of Review of Educational Research, a journal of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

The research focuses on language of instruction and on reading approaches for ELLs. Using the language of instruction as the constant, the researchers identified 13 applicable studies and determined that outcomes for elementary-aged children taught in Spanish and transitioned to English are no different from outcomes for those taught only in English.


Multiple reading interventions proved effective. “What is in common across the most promising interventions is their use of extensive professional development, coaching, and cooperative learning,” say the researchers.

“The findings support a conclusion increasingly being made by researchers and policymakers concerned with optimal outcomes for ELLs and other language minority students: Quality of instruction is more important than language of instruction.”

January 11, 2013

FOR KIDS: Hitting streaks spread success

For baseball players who want to increase their batting success, a new study offers this tip: Get on a team with a slugger.

When one player experiences a hitting streak, his teammates do better as well. The finding emerges from a new analysis of baseball stats.

(In baseball, as in life, some people are improved by the company they keep!)

Read more

January 9, 2013

FOR KIDS: Science for all

Quick, what does a real scientist, engineer or mathematician look like? If someone from the cast of television’s The Big Bang Theory pops into your head, then keep reading. Here we go beyond the stereotypes to meet some real-life experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the so-called STEM fields.

The work these experts do takes them everywhere, from your neighborhood movie house to inside the White House. They are up in the air, helping high-flying military aircraft spy on the enemy, and down on the ground, inventing mobile applications blind people can use to type notes. Sometimes, what these STEM experts do isn’t about seeing at all — it’s about looking good. One is even world famous for his contributions to the science of shampoo and conditioners. Smooth!
And who knows, you might just be inspired to join them.